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Des Moines native Abbie Eichman died at 36

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A Cubs fan, the “flower lady,” husbands, wives, and more are part of the more than 1,400 Iowans lost COVID-19 as of early October 2020.

Des Moines Register

The turtle figurine on Abbie Eichman’s work desk always faced north.

If it were skewed in any other direction, Abbie knew someone had visited. And that meant she probably needed to tidy up.

Abbie was equally meticulous at home, where she fashioned a labeled box for every pair of her shoes and rotated them through her closet based on the season. She never bored of clothes either, routinely selling old pieces and buying new ones to complement her collection of designer bags.

Now, Abbie’s parents, Bret and Caroyle Andrews, find themselves slowly making their way through their only daughter’s massive wardrobe. 

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Bret and Caroyle Andrews lost their daughter Abbie Eichman to COVID-19. Caroyle said, “She was the most giving and caring person, to a fault. If you were her friend, you were her friend for life.” (Photo: Olivia Sun/The Register)

Abbie was 36, living with her soulmate and doing a job she loved in her native Des Moines, when she died of COVID-19 on July 3. She had been sick less than a week, her parents said, and was admitted to Iowa Methodist Medical Center the day before she died.

Married nearly eight years ago, Abbie found her perfect match in her husband, Kalon Eichman, Caroyle said. The couple built Legos together and dedicated a room in their basement to shelves upon shelves of pieces. They loved autumn outings to pumpkin patches and corn mazes. And they read together constantly, resulting in frequent trips to Half Price Books in Clive.

At the Better Business Bureau, where Abbie worked since graduating from Grand View University in 2007, she took on extra responsibilities such as planning banquets and coordinating a scholarship program for young leaders. 

Abbie loved fall, but especially the month of October, her mother said. Her birthday was the 4th, but the lifelong south-sider celebrated for all 31 days.

“October was all about Abbie,” Caroyle said.

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Bret and Caroyle Andrews said they usually don’t Christmas shop in advance, but Bret purchased a “Dad Loves You” necklace for his daughter, Abbie Eichman, in the spring, months before he would have gifted it to her. Abbie, 36, died of COVID-19 on July 3. (Photo: Olivia Sun/The Register)

Growing up, Abbie’s older brother, Benjamin Andrews, was her best friend and mentor. While Abbie was learning to manage severe dyslexia in grade school, her brother volunteered to proofread her papers, Caroyle said.

Many Andrews family vacations were spent trekking up to the Train Bell Resort on the banks of Minnesota’s North Long Lake. Ben and Abbie were usually allowed to bring a buddy or two — a delight for Abbie, whose obituary mentions her “amazing gift of making everyone feel like family.”

Indeed, Abbie seemed to make friends wherever she went, her mother said, but held them to a high standard.

“She was the most giving and caring person, to a fault,” Caroyle said. “If you were her friend, you were her friend for life.”

But, Abbie “was black and white. You either told the truth or you didn’t,” she added. “She didn’t want anything to do with the gray area.”

Abbie also had a close relationship with her grandmother Dorothy, visiting her every week before the pandemic interrupted their prized get-togethers.

Talking about all the years and experiences Abbie still should have had ahead of her pains Bret and Caroyle. But, recently, they found a small way to keep their daughter’s memory alive.

They bought turtle figurines for friends and family, telling the recipients to always keep them pointing true north — for Abbie.

Iowa Mourns is a series of remembrances about Iowans who lost their lives to COVID-19 during the coronavirus pandemic in 2020. If you’ve lost a loved one to COVID-19 in Iowa, let us know by filling out this form or emailing Iowa Columnist Courtney Crowder at [email protected]

Shelby Fleig covers Des Moines city government for the Register. Reach her at [email protected] or 515-214-8933.

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